Wednesday, 17 June 2015

excluded from the Human Rights Cross Party Group @ScotParl: no Freedom to Speak @AmnestyScotland; conflicts of interest (updated)

@AmnestyScotland
[updated with 2 more Emails, below at 17.24]

I had Emailed the Amnesty International Scottish Advocacy and Education Worker on 20 March 2015, asking if I could attend the Cross Party Group on Human Rights at Scottish Parliament.  At that point in time Amnesty International were providing the secretarial support to the group.

I had remembered today, 17 June 2015, that I'd not got a response, checked back my Emails to confirm this, and Emailed the Scottish Amnesty worker about it.  And she said:

"I'm afraid that I didn't get a positive response from office bearers about joining the group. Amnesty no longer provide the secretariat to the CPG now either. That role was taken on by Carole Ewart of the Human Rights Consortium Scotland at the last meeting. You should be able to get her contact details from the CPG page on the Scottish Parliament website."


parliament page link to CPG on Human Rights

I Emailed the Amnesty Scotland worker back to ask about the lack of "positive response" and was told:

"The process agreed by the CPG office bearers is that people have to apply for membership, with a short paragraph on their expertise in human rights.  The office bearers will approve membership on the basis of that expertise and take into account how many other people already on the group cover that area - to avoid the group becoming too large and unmanageable.

If the office bearers want to approve membership they email back to let me know, but I didn't get any emails back in response to say your membership was approved."

But the problem was that I was never asked to write a short paragraph about my expertise.  The Amnesty worker's point about the group becoming "too large and unmanageable" if too many were on the group I thought an odd one.  I wondered if there were huge numbers attending or if some participants were "unmanageable".

I decided to phone the number on the CPG Human Rights page of the parliament website: Tel: 0141 582 1207, for the Human Rights Consortium, and a woman answered the phone, saying "Ewart Consultancy", that Ms Ewart was in her car, not in the office.  So I googled up Carole Ewart and found out on LinkedIn that she was an independent Consultant with a Human Rights Law degree, also a Co-ordinator (P/T) at Human Rights Consortium Scotland.

I thought this could be a conflict of interest.  An independent consultant being the main contact for the parliamentary CPG on Human Rights.  Usually, in my experience, it is a paid worker with a charity or public organisation.  And so I have written an Email to John Finnie MSP whose name was down as a contact for the group:


"Dear Mr Finnie

I am writing to you as the contact MSP for the Cross Party Group on Human Rights at Scottish Parliament.  With some questions which I hope you are able to answer.

I had sent an Email to JH, Amnesty, in March, as the contact person for the CPG, asking if I might attend the group.  However I got no response and so I wrote back to Ms H today.  To which she replied that she got no "positive responses" from the group regarding my attendance.  However I was given no opportunity to write anything in my defence or to explain why I would like to be at the group.  In fact I was denied any freedom of expression.  Ironically, considering the group's remit.

Then Ms H continued to say that if the group got too large then it could become "unmanageable".  I have attended the CPG on Mental Health since 2011, also recently started attending the CPG for Carers.  It has been my experience that the group meetings have never been too large for a committee room.  The numbers fluctuate from meeting to meeting.

I was wondering why the contact telephone number for the "Human Rights Consortium" went through to Ewart Consultancy, when I phoned the number earlier.  I thought this unusual.  Ms Hepburn informs me that it is because Carole Ewart is a private consultant as well as being a representative of the HR Consortium.    I would suggest there could be a conflict of interest in this area?  

I am a human rights campaigner in mental health matters, also a writer and activist, an unwaged carer.  I do this work voluntarily.  There are no conflicts of interest.  I get a basic State Pension, aged 62, and choose to not take money so as to be independent.

Yours sincerely,

Chrys"

-----------------------------------

Email received today at 16.06 from Carole Ewart, Human Rights Consortium Scotland:


and my response today at 16.59


and I added:


-----------------------------------

Human rights campaigning in Scotland is too important a topic to have the waters muddied by potential conflicts of interest.  In my judgement.  I believe that I have the right to speak out about this because of the stance I've been forced to take since my son had his basic human rights denied in Stratheden Hospital, February 2012, and was subject to psychiatric abuse.

I am not doing it for the money or for the recognition.  It is a matter of justice and of human rights for all.


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